Florida passed a new law that allocates $10 million in funds for the state’s Dental Student Loan Repayment Program.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed SB 7016, also known as “Live Healthy” into law funding the state’s Dental Student Loan Repayment Program.

The law makes a total of $10 million available in Florida for eligible orthodontists to receive reimbursements for up to $250,000 for their student loan debt by meeting specific program requirements.

The American Association of Orthodontists (AAO), the Florida Association of Orthodontists, and the Florida Dental Association formed a coalition that worked together last year to ensure $2 million was added to the Dental Student Loan Repayment Program, and that the amount was designated as recurring program funding for subsequent years.

The program was authorized prior to last year, but funds were never appropriated to activate the program until the coalition was formed and the AAO engaged proactively to support approval of these funds. In the 2024 Florida legislative session, AAO and the coalition worked to support increased funding through Senate Bill 7016 containing language appropriating an additional $8 million designated for the program.

The program encourages dentists and orthodontists to serve the Medicaid population in dental health professional shortage areas and medically underserved areas throughout Florida. In exchange for the provider’s commitment to that mission, the program provides $50,000 in financial assistance per year, for up to 5 years and up to $250,000, to go toward repayment of dental student loans.

The average student loan debt for orthodontists completing residency is over $560,000. The Florida’s loan repayment program allows new orthodontists in Florida to consider service to the community ahead of the financial burdens of student loan repayment.

The AAO stated that the Florida Dental Student Loan Repayment Program structure could serve as a model for efforts to enact similar programs in other states.

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